Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” Matthew 20:20-22(NLT)
I would be a rich man by this world’s yardstick if I had a few dollars for every prayer of mine that seemed to go unanswered. Like the ambitious mother of James and John, I have asked for things to which the Lord has lovingly said: You don’t know what you’re asking. In many ways I’ve been glad he said “NO”!
These are the prayers of the Christmas pony variety, where children have this snapshot image in their minds, of sitting atop a beautiful animal, enjoying the lofty air of being envied by all their jealous friends, so they ask, cajole, promise and nag their parents (or Santa) for the request of a lifetime – I want a pony for Christmas. To which the wise parent always says: You don’t know what you’re asking. Well, that would be a wise AND brave parent; most of us just say, we’ll see.
So, what’s wrong with the request for a Christmas pony? Well, it’s obvious that the child is imagining only the fun, while the parents are counting the costs of boarding, grooming, feeding and all the other aspects of responsibly caring for the present.
James and John may have prodded their Mom into asking for a promotion; it was their version of sitting in elevated and rarified air, looking rather regal being the left and right-hand bookends to the King. Jesus brought them down to planet Earth rather abruptly with the cost-side accounting of bearing what was to come. He had just predicted his suffering and death as the pathway to that throne. There is never a crown without a cross; someone always has to pay!
But what if the prayer of James and John’s Mom was sincere? And what if the two boys actually were prepared for the suffering and their intention was not about the grandeur of standing next to the King, but rather about being available to the King as servants? What if they were unselfishly ready? What if it were a great statement of faith that, despite Jesus’ predictions of his death, the mother of James and John was just expressing her unshakeable faith that Jesus would prevail, even over death?
Apparently that was not the case; Jesus knew Salome’s sons would eventually suffer for the sake of the Gospel, as the other apostles and countless disciples through the past two millennia – He was just not willing to make it a Christmas pony that would evoke jealousy in others.
I actually love that about the way God turns thumbs-down on some of my prayers. My life would have been miserable if I’d gotten some of the things for which I begged. The Lord knew I wouldn’t handle them well, and his answers are always better than my questions.
Have you got a longing to have a Christmas pony? Go ahead and ask; just be ready to accept His answer. Yes, or no…He knows what He’s doing!